Guest Column: Rockford Public School District: The Music Man … and his band

By Jane Hayes

Most people know the story of The Music Man from Broadway, the movies or community theater productions. Meredith Wilson’s creation of The Music Man (Harold Hill) and his colorful suits and personality creates an image of a con man or master bamboozler who brings music to a naïve Iowa town. Life will never be the same for them after Professor Hill, who is unqualified to teach music, cons them into believing in his half-cocked schemes.

So, what does this have to do with the Rockford Public Schools, you ask? After receiving information from a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request, I see the parallel between the Communications Department and its 10 employees to The Music Man. The salary cost alone for this department is $525,106, with the chief of communications — a political science major — receiving $115,400. Nine other employees under him make astonishing salaries, and they are still not finished hiring, as they are looking for an employee to serve as a marketing specialist with a salary to be determined. I am left wondering how many people it takes to screw in a light bulb … or us!

How many of you knew in advance of the creative genius of three artists at Thurgood Marshall Middle School (formerly Kennedy Middle School) on Rockton Avenue? At 1 p.m., April 17, there was a dedication of a phenomenal mosaic mural created by an all-school effort with guidance from Lisa Normoyle, the Marshall art teacher; David Stocker, local musician and artist-in-residence; and Drew Helge, outstanding graduate of Rockford Auburn High School’s CAPA program. With their help and many staff, students and parents, an incredible mural called “Oceania” was dedicated to the wonders and the sustenance of water and its splendor.

Because I know all three artists, I was delighted to be in the audience, but I never would have known in advance of this positive undertaking from our students and staff at District 205.

Rick Munoz’s students started the project nearly two years ago and became creative problem-solvers, understanding the impacts on their environment. While the head of the Arts Council, state Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Ehren Jarrett and Rockford Public Schools Chief Communications Officer Earl Dotson were in attendance, I wonder how many other people did NOT show up because there were no notices in the Rockford Register Star or on the news broadcasts preceding the dedication. Two local channels did cover the dedication that day for all to see on local news. The Rock River Times included a press release prior to the event online.

Why? Why is this community NOT informed in advance of such an outstanding and positive effort in our schools? With two former lunch ladies who started at an hourly wage and now earn $47,380 and $35,543, two former Rockford Register Star reporters who earn $65,000 and $50,000, two coaches at $34,420 and $40,000, a web manager for $48,000, an AV (audio-visual) specialist at $54,000, and other parent and community liaisons, you would think the story of “Oceania” would have leaked to the media before the dedication. Remember, before this, Mark Bonne did the same job far more effectively with only a part-time secretary, no underlings, and at a salary cost that was far less to the district.

How many outstanding plays have you missed at Auburn or Guilford? How many concerts at Jefferson or East High have you been unaware of in advance? Or, how many performances at middle schools throughout District 205 have you missed because the Communications Department has NOT done its job properly?

Become aware of the madcap mishaps throughout District 205 by visiting “Watch the Corruption” on Facebook. And, I am reminded of the song from The Music Man, “Ya Got Trouble, Trouble, Trouble Right Here in River (Forest) City!”

Jane Hayes is a member of Watchdogs for Ethics in Education (WEE) and Rockford Educators Advocating Civil Treatment.

From the May 7-13, 2014, issue

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